1. The U.S. Intelligence community and the F.B.I. agree they have evidence Russia interfered in the U.S. election in order to help Donald Trump. The evidence is described in Malcolm Nance’s book, The Plot to Hack America and in comprehensive investigations by at least two news organizations:
b. Fox News independently confirmed the Russian government directed the effort to interfere in the election.
3. U.S. Intelligence officials have evidence Vladimir Putin personally directed the Russian effort to interfere in the election.
4. The timing of the leaks of the emails provide evidence of intent.
5. The U.S. Intelligence community has evidence Russians hacked the Republican National Committee but did not release the information in any damaging way. The CIA and the FBI have interpreted this as evidence of intent.
6. The Washington Post published evidence the Russian propaganda effort helped spread “fake news” during the election that helped Trump win.
I. This essay explores the FBI’s handling of cases relating to the 2106 election. It demonstrates we have evidence the FBI violated the Hatch Act in ways that help elect Trump. The polling data provides evidence the influence of the FBI and the Russians made the difference in the election. This investigation is based on the reporting done by the New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, Fortune, Financial Times, The Guardian and Bloomberg.
II. In July of 2016 Trump asked the Russians to hack into Clinton’s emails in a public news conference (1). On October 7th the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security released a joint statement that accused Russia of launching computer hacks “intended to interfere with the US election process”(2). It stated that the US intelligence community “is confident that the Russian government directed the recent compromises of emails” belonging to the Democratic National Committee.
A. The FBI director stated at the time he did not want the FBI on this finding because it was too close to the election. The FBI attempted to persuade the White house not to suggest the Russians are hacking the emails of the Democratic Party in effort to influence the election for the same reason.
B. On October 31st the New York Times reported that FBI officials said investigators “have become increasingly confident, based on the evidence they have uncovered, that Russia’s direct goal is not to support the election of Mr. Trump, as many Democrats have asserted, but rather to disrupt the integrity of the political system and undermine America’s standing in the world more broadly”(3). The title of the story states that the FBI sees no clear link between Russia and the Trump campaign.
1) After the election, The Washington Post, The New York Times, Bloomberg, Reuters, CNN, Politico and the Wall Street Journal all reported that Russian officials were in contact with the Trump team during the campaign (4). Bloomberg reports that, “Russia said it was in contact with President-elect Donald Trump’s team during the U. S. election campaign, despite repeated denials by the republican candidate’s advisers.” So we have reason to question the FBI’s finding that there was no clear link between Russia and the Trump campaign.
2) The position the FBI takes here is telling. They actually have evidence Russia was trying to help Trump. Russia only hacked into the emails of the Democratic National Committee; they did not hack into the emails of the Republican National Committee. They also released the emails from the DNC in ways that did damage to the Clinton Campaign. The release of these emails was a weekly topic of discussion in the news media during the campaign. There were no emails from the Trump campaign that were hacked by the Russians and discussed by the news media.
The FBI also had evidence the Russians had reasons to help Trump. He has taken positions that clearly serve the interests of the Russians: he said he is willing to look into allowing Russia to annex Crimea; he has made clear his disdain for NATO and other international alliances; he has described Putin as a strong leader. Clinton, on the other hand, has advocated for the US’s traditional positions on Crimea and NATO (5). The FBI therefore had evidence the Russians were helping Trump, that Trump asked for this help, and that the Russians had reasons to help Trump. Why would FBI officials go to such trouble to suggest the Russians “direct goal is not to support the election of Mr. Trump?”
A current FBI agent recently provided the best explanation we have so far. He described the FBI as “Trumplandia”: filled with Trump supporters that have a deep opposition to Hillary Clinton (6). So we have evidence FBI investigators ignored evidence the Russians were attempting to help Trump win. We also have evidence they had a motive: they wanted Trump to win.
3) The motive of FBI officials and investigators is revealed in an interesting manner in their description of the “direct goal” of the Russians. This goal is characterized in terms of a false dilemma: The Russians are either trying to get Trump elected or they are trying to undermine the integrity of the political system. Amazingly these officials and investigators appear to ignore the fact that helping Trump get elected, by itself, disrupts the “integrity of the political system and undermine(s) America’s standing in the world more broadly.” Trump is a reality TV actor who has no experience in government. He has been caught on tape bragging about sexually assaulting women. The past two republican presidents did not support his candidacy. The fact that helping Trump get elected would undermine America’s standing in the world is obvious to most people in the US, except those who are Trump supporters. The fact that the FBI investigators failed to consider this as an option in their investigation of the Russians is evidence of the culture of Trumplandia in the FBI. This false dilemma was articulated by an FBI official on October 31st. This means the FBI did not investigate the possibility that the Russians were seeking to influence the US election in order to get Donald Trump elected and disrupt the integrity of the political system and undermine America’s standing in the world. They apparently were incapable of conceiving that possibility.
C. Trump and Clinton both received security briefings during the campaign informing them Russia was responsible for hacking the emails of the Democratic National Committee. In spite of this, he stated in all of the debates that Hillary does not know whether Russia is hacking into the DNC emails (7). The fact that Trump attempts to deny Russia is hacking the DNC emails when they both know Russia is illustrates that he has a reason to do so: he is trying to hide the fact that he is getting help from the Russians. It could also be interpreted as evidence of an intentional effort to cover-up a Russian counterintelligence operation intended to influence the US electoral process.
D. The New York Times reported on October 31 that FBI officials spent weeks examining computer data showing an odd stream of activity between a Trump Organization server and Alfa Bank, which is one of Russia’s biggest banks and whose owners have longstanding ties to Mr. Putin. The logs show that two servers at Alfa Bank sent more than 2,700 “look-up” messages– a first step for one system’s computers to talk to another — to a Trump-connected server beginning in the spring of 2016. But the F.B.I. “ultimately concluded that there could be an innocuous explanation, like a marketing email or spam, for computer contacts”(3).
1) The New York Times article makes it clear that F.B.I. investigators did not confirm the 2,700 messages were marketing emails or spam; they simply concluded that it was possible that they were. In the case of Hillary Clinton’s emails, the F.B.I. clearly took a different approach.
III. On October 28th, 2016, 11 days before the election, The Director of the FBI sent a message to congressional leaders stating the FBI was going to investigate some emails they found on one of Clinton’s assistant’s laptops (8). 9 days later the FBI announced their investigation of the emails did not lead them to change their decision that there was no reason to bring charges. This last announcement came over the weekend before the election; two days before the polls opened. As mentioned, on October 7th Comey opposed announcing that the Russians were attempting to interfere in the US election process because it was too close to the election.
IV. The Hatch act bars the use of an official position to influence an election. Congressman Harry Reid believes the FBI director violated the Hatch Act: Read said in a letter to Comey “I am writing to inform you that my office has determined that these actions may violate the Hatch Act. Through your partisan actions, you may have broken the law”(10). On October 30, 2016, Richard Painter filed a complaint against the F.B.I. with the Office of Special Counsel, which investigates Hatch Act violations, and with the Office of Government Ethics. Richard W. Painter is a professor at the University of Minnesota Law School and was the chief White House ethics lawyer from 2005 to 2007, during the Bush administration (11). Let’s review the evidence we have that FBI officials and investigators used their official positions to influence the 2016 election in two different ways.
The FBI Director attempted to prevent the government from notifying the public that Russia was attempting to influence the election because it was too close to the election; The FBI Director however notified congress and thereby the public they were investigating the new batch of Clinton emails even though this notification was three weeks closer to the election. The FBI’s handling of these notifications is inconsistent. This inconsistency constitutes evidence the FBI director misused his position in a manner that influenced the election in violation of the Hatch act.
1) Let’s consider the consequences of this violation of the Hatch act. Before Comey sent his letter to congress, Secretary Clinton had one of her largest leads. She just completed the three debates and the video of Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women had just come out. Trump’s numbers were trending down and there were no more major events that he could use to change the dynamic.
The FBI announcement changed the dynamic of the entire race. Between October 28th, the day Comey wrote his letter to congress and November 3, Clinton’s chances of winning Florida and North Carolina fell from 66% and 65% respectively to approximately 50% in each state according to the FiveThirtyEight website (9). Clinton’s chances of winning Arizona, Iowa, and Ohio were 49%, 51%, and 50% respectively on October 28th; By November 3rd her chances had dropped substantially, to 28.9%, 28.3%, and 32.7%. The average decrease in her chances of victory in the swing states below in the six days after Comey’s announcement was 14.5%. Clinton ended up losing all of the states mentioned. She won the popular vote but lost the Electoral College with 228 electoral votes. If she had won Florida and North Carolina, she would have won the election with 272 electoral votes. Clinton herself described the Comey announcement as making the difference. Nate Silver agreed.
State 10/28 11/3 Drop
Florida 65.8 49.6 16.2
North Carolina 64.4 49.5 14.9
Arizona 49.4 28.9 20.5
Iowa 50.9 28.3 22.6
Ohio 49.9 32.7 17.2
Michigan 86.5 78.3 8.2
Pennsylvania 85.9 75.9 10
Wisconsin 85.3 78.7 6.6
Average drop 14.5
United States 81.5 66.2 15.3
2) The FBI’s decision not to inform the public that Russia was attempting to influence the election by leaking the emails from one candidate made it much easier for Russia to influence the US election. If the FBI had joined the October 7th statement from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security and added that Russia was attempting to influence the US election by leaking the emails from one candidate in order to help the chances of the other candidate, this would have made it clear to the news media and the public that if they discuss the contents of these hacked emails with the public, they are helping a foreign power undermine our democracy. Instead, the FBI went out of its way to suggest Russia was not trying to help Trump win even though they had clear evidence to the contrary. This gave the news media the ability to cover these emails on a daily basis without acknowledging to the public (and perhaps themselves) the extent to which they were undermining our democracy.
Consider for a moment how the election would have been different if each week Putin decided to leak emails from the Trump campaign. After the video was released showing Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women, I am sure their were some interesting emails that were sent around, a few to attorneys probably. These emails could have dominated the news media in the last months of the election. But Putin did not want that; he wanted Trump to be elected for the obvious reasons discussed earlier.
The FBI did not tell the New York Times they confirmed the 2,700 messages a Russian bank has sent to a server owned by Donald Trump are spam. They apparently concluded this was not necessary. They did however think it was necessary to confirm that the emails on Clinton’s assistant’s laptop were not duplicates or personal in nature. This implies the FBI was more concerned with finding out whether Hillary Clinton was sending confidential information on her private server than they were with finding out whether Trump was secretly coordinating his campaign with Russian hackers through Russian oligarchs. Once again, the failure to handle the emails on these servers in a consistent fashion influenced the election and constitutes a violation of the Hatch act.
Along with the evidence for these Hatch Act Violations and the espionage done by Russian hackers, we have evidence the FBI and the Russians were both in communication with the Tump team during the campaign. We already considered how several major newspapers reported after the election that Russia was in touch with the Trump team during the campaign (4). On CNN on October 26 Rudy Guliani appeared to admit the Trump campaign was aware the Comey announcement was coming (12). The FBI director informed congress of the FBI’s intention to investigate additional Clinton emails two days later. We therefore have evidence the President-elect’s team was in communication with two groups that engaged in illegal activity that had the effect of influencing the US election process and helping Trump get elected.
Donald Trump is right: this election was rigged. It looks like he had inside knowledge.
- We have evidence the Russians engaged in espionage and counterintelligence that sought to influence the US election and help Trump win.
- We have evidence the FBI engaged in violations of the Hatch Act that had the effect of helping Trump win.
- We have evidence Trump’s team was in contact with the FBI and the Russians while they were engaged in these illegal activities.
Since Trump advocates policies that serve their interests, the Russians had a clear motive. The reports that the FBI is a kind of Trumplandia provide a motive for it’s behavior. It is easy to understand Trump’s motive: the Russians wanted him to win.
The leaks of the emails by the Russians through Wikileaks prevented Clinton from pulling too far away. The polling data demonstrates that the Comey announcement provided the game-changer that put Trump over the top: repeated jabs from the Russians and then a right cross from the FBI took our democracy down. The Russians understand the significance of what just happened. Russian media quoted Viktor Nazarov, governor of the Omsk region, as telling a meeting, “It turns out that the United Russia has won the elections in the United States!” (13) Americans have a long way to go.
We have evidence Donald Trump attempted to cover-up the espionage committed by the Russians. Even though he received security briefings stating the US intelligence community had evidence the Russians were responsible for hacking the emails of the DNC, he repeatedly stated in all the presidential debates before a national audience that our country does not know who is responsible for hacking these emails. The third debate occurred after the intelligence community’s joint statement on the Russians. In this last debate, he stated, “Hillary, you have no idea. Our country has no idea [who is responsible for hacking the emails of the DNC]”(7 at 4:25).
Trump repeatedly said his team was not in contact with Russia during the election. His campaign was investigated by the FBI and they confirmed this claim. Then after the election we learned that Trump was not telling the truth: many members of the Trump team were in continual contact with Russia during the campaign.
We therefore have evidence Trump lied about our country’s knowledge of Russian espionage during the election and the fact that his campaign was in communication with the Russians during the election. This evidence demonstrates Trump knowingly assisted the Russian counterintelligence program identified by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security.
- Trump News Conference:
- “FBI chief opposed US statement blaming Russia for hacks,” Financial Times, David Lynch and Sam Fleming, , October 31,2016:
- “Investigating Donald Trump, F.B.I. Sees No Clear Link to Russia,” New York Times, Eric Lichtblau and Steven Lee Myers, OCT. 31, 2016:
- “Moscow had contacts with Trump during campaign, Russian diplomat says,” The Washington Post, David Filipovand Andrew Roth, November 10, 2016:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/moscow-had-contacts-with-trump-team-during-campaign-russian-diplomat-says/2016/11/10/28fb82fa-a73d-11e6-9bd6-184ab22d218e_story.html; “Russian Officials Were in Contact with Trump Allies, Diplomat Says,” New York Times, Ivan Nechepurenkonov, NOV. 10, 2016:
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/11/world/europe/trump-campaign-russia.html. “Russia Reached Out to Trump, Clinton Camps During Election,” Bloomberg, IlyaArkhipov, Henry Miller, Stepan Kravchenko, November 10, 2016: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-11-10/russia-says-it-was-in-contact-with-trump-s-team-during-campaign
- “Why Putin wants a Trump victory (so much he might even be trying to help him),” Washington Post, Michael McFaul, August 17, 2016:
- ‘The FBI is Trumpland’: anti-Clinton atmosphere spurred leaking, sources say,” The Guardian, Spencer Ackerman, November 4, 2016:
“Agent: FBI is Trumplandia,” The Hill, Tim Devaney, 11/03/16:
- Second Presidential Debate:
- “ComeyNotified Congress of email probe despite DOJ concerns,” CNN, Evan Perez and Pamela Brown, October 30, 2016:
- “Polls Are Showing James ComeyCould Affect the Election,” Fortune, Roger Parlof, November 4, 2016:
- “Harry Reid: Comeymay have violated the Hatch Act,” CNN, Caroline Kenny, October 31, 2016:
- “On Clinton Emails, Did the F.B.I. Director Abuse His Power?” New York Times, Richard Painter, October 30. 2016:
- Rudy Guiliani appears to admit that the Trump campaign had advance knowledge of the Comey announcement on CNN October 26:
- ‘Yes We Did’: Russia’s establishment basks in Trump’s victory,” Washington Post, David Filipovand Andrew Roth, November 9th, 2016: